(Reuters) – President Joe Biden has promised to significantly reduce emissions by 2030 while creating new, well-paid jobs in the green energy sector. Its administration has identified bus electrification as one of the main ways to achieve this goal.

While more than half of all traffic emissions are caused by conventional cars, diesel-powered local buses are the worst polluters, especially in American cities.

Pollution from local public transport

Converting transit buses to battery or fuel cell propulsion is considered to be one of the fastest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for the largest share of US emissions at 29%.

The US is way behind

Of the roughly 70,000 mostly diesel transit buses in the United States, only about 2% are currently emission-free, according to the Center for Transportation and Environment, which advises transport companies on buses with clean energy.

This puts the United States far behind China, which according to the Chinese government has converted almost 60% of its bus fleet for 2020. In Europe, according to European Automobile, electric buses made up 6% of all new registrations of buses from manufacturers’ associations in 2020.

Who finances electric buses?

US transportation companies get much of the funding from the Federal Transit Administration, a US Department of Transportation agency that has provided nearly $ 670 million in e-bus grants over the past eight years.

Thanks in part to this financing, the US e-bus market is expected to quintuple to 2.7 billion US dollars by 2024, according to analysts at P&S Intelligence.

Who are the players in the industry?

The US market for electric buses is currently led by two suppliers of specially developed battery-powered buses: Proterra Inc., based in California, and BYD North America, a unit of China-based BYD Co Ltd. Each company has sold around 1,000 electric buses a year in the United States over the past 10 years.

But electric models from established diesel bus manufacturers, including US-based GILLIG, the New Flyer unit of Canadian NFI Group Inc, and Novabus, a Volvo subsidiary based in Canada, are becoming increasingly popular with traffic authorities.

New Flyer, GILLIG, Novabus, BYD and Proterra together have a production capacity of around 6,000 electric and conventional buses per year, with BYD accounting for around a quarter of the total production capacity.

Biden’s goal

Biden plans to electrify 50,000 diesel buses or around 70% of the US fleet in the next eight years.

A bipartisan agreement reached last month would pour $ 7.5 billion into bus electrification programs, though that funding includes electric school buses.

Biden wants this pot of money to fuel high-paying union jobs.

Reporting for Reuters by Tina Bellon

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